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Dr. Varghese Kurien the founder of the dairy cooperative movement in India breathed his last in the wee hours of Sunday,9th Sept,2012 at a hospital in Nadiad(Gujarat). A medical bulletin issued by the hospital stated old age complications as the cause of death. He was aged 90. Known affectionately as the “Dairyman of India” by his colleagues and well wishers, he has left behind a trail of achievements and honours, which will be difficult to equal for a long time to come. The iconic status that he acquired in the course of his life and the laurels that he earned made him a role model worthy of emulation in the eyes of many. His departure is like one of a messiah who has completed his earthly sojourn on behalf of his  devotees and followers (the dairy farmers of India).

His origins were humble having been born into a family of modest means, in Calicut ( part of then Madras Presidency of British India) now known as Kozhikode (State of Kerala) on 26th Nov,1921. After basic schooling he graduated with a degree in Physics from the famed Loyola college in Madras (now Chennai), followed by a technology program in Mechanical Engg from the College of Engineering, Guindy. A further recognition of his academic excellence and merit came in the form of a scholarship from the Govt of India which helped him to travel overseas to the United States and obtain a masters in Mechanical Engg( with a minor specialization in Dairy Technology) from the University of Michigan. Upon his return he was hired by the Dairy Dept of the Govt of India in 1948. He underwent an inductive training program at the Dairy Training Institute in Bangalore before taking up an assignment at the Govt Dairy in Anand (then part of Bombay State and now in Gujarat) in May,1949. Little did young Varghese know back then that this obscure town of Anand would  set him on a missionary course for the remainder of his life, from which there was no looking back and would eventually catapult him to global fame and recognition

In the year 1946 a social activist Mr. Tribhuvandas Patel (a dairy farmer by occupation) from the district of Kheda embarked upon a mission to relieve the local dairy farmers from the clutches of the traders and middlemen who with their pernicious practices  had so hostaged the dairy business that it neither helped the consumers nor the producers(dairy farmer). Mr Patel’s noble efforts of forming a dairy cooperative with the sole objective of eliminating the middleman-trader gained the ready support of many national leaders and valiant freedom fighters of those times such as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Morarji Desai. A couple of years later around 1950 Mr Tribhuvandas approached Dr Kurien for assistance in running the nascent cooperative venture. This moment was the genesis, a flashpoint which would culminate in a revolution several years later.

Dr. Kurien soon hit the headlines in the press with his novel methods and proved a rebel within his clan often crossing thorny paths with politicians, bureaucrats and business interests who more often than not tried their utmost to stall his efforts through which he intended to improve the lot of the dairy farmers. The establishment though tepid in the early stages could no longer afford to ignore him as people across the country from all walks of life drew inspiration from his movement. The Prime-Minister Pandit Nehru personally visited Anand in the late 1950’s and was remarkably impressed with the Midas touch this man had lent to his work and to the lives of the people around him. The moment of glory really came in 1965 when at the initiative of Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri (then Prime-Minister) the Govt of India decided to form the NDDB (National Dairy Development Board) to replicate the Anand pattern of dairy development with Dr Kurien being the inaugural chairman. Operation Flood was launched in 1970. The passing years saw some innovative changes being made to the pattern. Village cooperatives being amalgamated at the district level and then at the state level. The GCMMF (Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation) formed in 1973 was on these lines. Dr Kurien  headed it for several decades. Honours and awards were bestowed on him at regular intervals. Padma Shri (1965), Padma Bhushan (1966), Ramon Magsaysay (1963) and Padma Vibhushan (1999) as well as the World Food Prize (1989). He was also conferred with several Honorary doctorate degrees by many universities.


Reference Sources:

1. Wikipedia Website

2. NDDB website

3. An Unfinished Dream by Dr V. Kurien( Tata Mcgraw Hill), 1997

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Tribute to Dr. V. Kurien

Nice tribute!

We are very thankful to dr. Varghese Kurien for his effort.

Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.